Immigration: What You Need To Know

I have started to write this article more times than I can even count (over nearly 2 months) and I could not manage to pull my thoughts together, but as the government shutdown remains at the crux of American life, I can’t stop thinking about it.

First, let me introduce myself, my name is Dyllanne Deischer and I live in Indianapolis, Indiana. And, from the title, you know this is about immigration. Well, what makes me qualified to tell you about the situation? I am a 3rd year law student at Indiana University, where I specialize in immigration and international law. I have worked in immigration throughout law school and will be practicing immigration upon passage of the bar exam.

Back to the issues. I know you know about the government shutdown and might even be impacted by it personally. Well, maybe you didn’t know that the government shutdown revolved around immigration.

I want to preface all of these things with the fact that immigration law is wildly complex, second most complex area of law, second only to tax law. Immigration law is much like Shrek, or an onion, it has layers, and layers, and more layers.

I am going to break this up into a few subcategories to make this a little less complex.

1. Visa Overstays

2016 graph showing the number of foreign citizens who overstayed their visa by country.

Approximately 2/3 of all illegal aliens in the United States are visa overstays. A visa overstay is exactly what it sounds like, the person obtained a visa, whether it was for school, work, or tourist reasons and never left the country. This means two very important things: these immigrants are not barred from becoming citizens because of illegal entry AND a border wall would not have stopped these immigrants from coming to the United States. Would you believe that? Nearly 70% of illegal immigration cannot be prevented by a border wall? Do with this information what you will, but also understand the function of a border wall. While it certainly would slow down drug smuggling and human trafficking (things people aren’t getting visas to do), it is not going to put a stop to illegal immigration.

2. Wait Time

Relax, this chart is actually very simple. It shows the wait times for family sponsored visas. (There are 3 ways to get a visa (or a green card): through family, through work, or through humanitarian relief).

F1,F2A, F2B ,F3, and F4 each refer to a specific group of people. F4 is siblings of US citizens.

So, if you, a US citizen, have a Mexican born brother and you apply for him to come to the United States, you are getting into a waitlist of 21 YEARS of petitions. As you can see, the wait is even longer if you have a Philippino sibling. In other words, in February of 2019, petitions that were filed in February of 1998 are being processed. If you are anything like me, you are probably outraged right now. At this point, I understand why someone would skip the line and cross the border illegally and hope for the best, don’t you?

3. Refugees and Asylees

This was a huge source of controversy over the last 6 months with the caravan at the border. First, most people probably don’t know the difference, and until law school, I didn’t either.

A refugeeis a person outside his or her country of nationality who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her country of nationality because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

An asyleeis a person who meets the definition of refugee and is already present in the United States or is seeking admission at a port of entry.

There are two forms of asylum: affirmative and defensive. Affirmative asylum is filed when someone gets to the border or applies from within the country. Defensive asylum occurs when an alien is in removal proceedings. On average, 47% of affirmative asylum petitions are granted, and 48% of affirmative asylum petitions. Less than a 50% chance of approval, I can AGAIN see how someone would try to fly under the radar.

4. DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)

I am sure you have heard of DACA. But you might not know what it means. There are students at my law school, there are students at IUPUI, there are students at many Indianapolis Public Schools who are “DACA kids”. DACA was an executive order signed by President Obama that allowed those in the United States before a certain date, and of a certain age to have “DACA status”, this meant they could work and go to school in the United States without fear of deportation assuming no crimes were committed, etc. (very complex, again).

These are 4 key players in the mess of an immigration system in place here in the United States. I hope that you take one thing from this article: to be patient with what you don’t know. There are immigrants everywhere, of course, aren’t we all immigrants? The people I am referring to in the article are trying to navigate this crazy system, but with fear. Place yourself in the shoes of an immigrant before you say Build The Wall, or make a comment about non-English speakers, or before you choose an organization to donate your time to.